More lineup changes await Clark, Steelers
Ryan Clark is out and Ryan Mundy is in at free safety. Doug Legursky is back to starting at left guard, if his shoulder holds up. LaMarr Woodley is slated to return to the starting lineup, though it is too early to tell if the outside linebacker will be limited Sunday when the Steelers visit Denver for an AFC wild-card game.
The Steelers have been a collection of moving parts due to injuries, and that hasn't changed with the arrival of the playoffs.
"We are always banged up. We are old," Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior said with a wry grin.
A medical condition, rather than age-induced injury, is why the Steelers will be without their leading tackler against quarterback Tim Tebow and the Broncos.
Coach Mike Tomlin informed Clark that he will not suit up because of the health risk posed to him by the thin air in Denver. Clark has sickle cell trait, and his condition coupled with high altitude in Denver resulted in life-threatening complications following a game there in 2007.
Tomlin said the decision to sit Clark, who led the Steelers with 100 tackles this season, was "easy" after conferring with doctors.
"When looking at all of our data and all of the variables in the equation, we came to the determination that he is at more risk, so we're not going to play him," Tomlin said Tuesday. "It's just that simple."
According to Clark, Tomlin said he wouldn't allow his son to play in Denver, which is why he ruled Clark out of the game.
"I respect him even more with him making the decision with a playoff game coming," Clark said on his weekly radio show.
Clark will make the trip to Denver and help Mundy and reserve safety Will Allen.
"We expect those guys to play Ryan Clark-like football," Tomlin said.
Clark is not the only loss the Steelers may have to overcome in the secondary. Rookie cornerback Cortez Allen is "questionable at best," Tomlin said, after separating his shoulder last Sunday.
Tomlin said the same holds true for Mewelde Moore, who has missed the past two games because of a knee injury and is one of only three running backs on the Steelers' 53-man roster.
Tomlin said there are no imminent plans to sign another running back, though that could change if Moore is unable to play against the Broncos. The most likely option, if the Steelers add depth at running back, is to promote rookie Chad Spann from the practice squad.
The Steelers will add an important piece to their offensive line this week unless Legursky experiences a setback.
Tomlin said there is a "strong chance" Legursky, who didn't play last Sunday because of a bad shoulder, will start at left guard against the Broncos.
Tomlin said Woodley, who tied for the team lead in sacks with nine, is also expected to return. Woodley hasn't played a full game since hurting his hamstring Oct. 30. Tomlin said the Steelers will monitor the fifth-year veteran in practice before deciding if he will be on a snap count in Denver or limited in any other way.
"One thing that we're comfortable with is that at the end of this thing, (Woodley) is going to be capable of playing in the football game," Tomlin said.